The dust is settled on the Spanish Grand Prix and for the first time this season, Nico Rosberg has been victorious!

Ultimately his victory was sealed at the very start of the race, when he got away well, whilst Lewis Hamilton span his wheels too hard and fell behind Sebastian Vettel, proceeding to be stuck behind the Ferrari for a big chunk of the race (not helped by a botched pit stop when he first boxed either).

With the Ferrari pacing the Mercedes quite nicely, Hamilton was unable to get close enough to take advantage of DRS, the only chance Hamilton initially had to get by Vettel was to try and undercut him at the pit stops, but a problem with the rear-left tyre at the first stops meant Hamilton actually ended up even further behind Vettel, and had to play catchup all over again.

Rosberg meanwhile, was largely un-threatened up front, stretching out a decent enough gap to avoid any pit stop strategy work from Ferrari.

The Toro Rossos, which had qualified 5th and 6th (a mighty effort), fell back during the early stages of the race, hampered by a setup that favoured strong cornering but left them sitting ducks on the straights, thus seeing to it that Kimi Raikkonen and the two Lotuses got by them fairly quickly.

Fernando Alonso nearly – nearly – ran over the jack man when he pitted, the result of a brake problem that would force him to retire, whilst Maldonado’s Lotus firstly suffered a damaged rear wing, then he too was forced to retire through no fault of his own.

Ultimately only Carlos Sainz would bring his Toro Rosso home in the points, though as I type he’s under investigation for a last-lap collision with Red Bull’s Kvyat, that saw him run wide through the first couple of corners.

Williams saw both cars in the points, with Valtteri Bottas holding off Kimi Raikkonen over the final few laps, once again showing great composure to right off the faster car. Ricciardo recovered from bad qualifying to finish 7th, with all the Red Bull-owned cars finishing the race (a minor miracle!)

Grosjean accidentally hit one of his pit crew when he failed to stop in time during one of his stops.

It would be fair to say the race was not especially exciting, but it was an important moment in the season – Rosberg controlled the race, for once looking every bit as confident as Hamilton has looked so far. He remains 20 points behind Hamilton after five races, but he’s shown he can still fight back, and he will be very keen to carry this form through to Monaco.

For his part, Hamilton managed to put in some sensational lap times on the harder tyre, managing to undercut Vettel in the end (Ferrari mysteriously didn’t try to cover Hamilton off). His speed once free of the Ferrari was impressive, and at one stage it seemed he might try to catch Rosberg in the final laps, but he was too far back to have a realistic chance. In the end, his chances of victory were thwarted at the very start, thanks to his poor start. He’ll be hungry to regain the upper hand in Monaco!

Back to F1 2015

image

After a few weeks without any F1 (I like to refer to these weeks as ‘the dark times’) it’s back! Barcelona, Spain, is the place, and I dare say this is one of my favourite tracks on F1 games.

It’s a circuit noted for being hard to overtake on, thanks to a number of winding corners that follow one another quite quickly. The best point is at the end of the start-finish line into turn 1, though even here, seeing as turn 2 follows on pretty quickly, getting by someone can be tricky.

In 2014 Lewis Hamilton won here for Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg close behind. It was a fairly close thing between the pair, but in the end Hamilton pulled off his fourth straight win.

This time, Rosberg has scored his first pole position of 2015, an important act, given that Hamilton has been pretty comfortable so far. Hamilton will not like being second, but last season he proved himself very capable of passing Rosberg on the track, so I can’t imagine he will too unnerved.

Sebastian Vettel parked his Ferrari third on the grid, once again lurking near the Mercs. Bottas had a good qualifying session for Williams, ending up fourth, but perhaps the best performance belongs to Carlos Sainz Jr, who stuck his Toro Rosso in fifth, a great effort from the rookie. His teammate Max Verstappen was sixth, meaning both Toro Rosso’s have qualified ahead of the Red Bulls.

Kimi Raikkonen was seventh, and I can only wager he’d be a tad disappointed, along with Massa, who only put his Williams on ninth, sandwiched between the Red Bulls. Kyvat out qualified Ricciardo, taking 8th to Dan’s 10th.

Both McLarens made it to Q2 but remain someway off the pace. They’ll be hoping to have a sniff of points during the race, but then so will Lotus, whose cars are 11th and 12th (right ahead of the McLarens).

It should be an absorbing race, one I am looking forward to!

Back to F1 2015

Firstly, congratulations to to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their daughter! She looked adorable, all wrapped up in her little blanket, and I wish her and her family all the best for the future!

Now for the meat of this post…

In a few days Britain goes to the polls to vote in an election that will almost certainly leave us with a hung Parliament (that is, no one party will be able to form a working majority, so cue frantic negotiations by the major parties to form coalitions with smaller ones, as happened last time).

If the polls are any indication, the Tories hold a 1-point lead over Labour – nowhere near significant enough to form a government. There’s a big reason for this too.

All the major political parties in Britain have suffered in recent years from being out of touch with the average person. Politicians from all parties are usually so far removed from reality that they do things like getting limos to ferry them 35 miles – instead of getting the train like a normal person (and I wish this sort of story was a one-off, sadly it isn’t). There was the Expenses Scandal, that revealed many MPs from many parties were using public money on some outrageous things (including a moat!)

If I vote (and that’s far from certain at the moment) it would probably be for Labour, on the simple basis that I feel the Tories have overseen the decline of the country over the past few years. There are so many empty shops in my local town centre, and there’s been an unprecedented rise in the use of food banks since the current coalition government took power.

Out-of-touch Tory leader and Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly would seek to repeal the hunting ban that went into force in 2005, believing that many people are against the ban – however YouGov polls would suggest otherwise.

There’s a lot more I could go into, but frankly, politics hurts my head. It seems that whoever get get at 10 Downing Street, we can be assured that our views will not be listened to, and no one will live up to their promises.

Fernando Alonso on track.(Fernando Alonso is hoping for progress in time for Spain)

So far it’s pretty fair to say that McLaren have had a woeful season. I ambitiously predicted that drivers Alonso and Button would finish 8th and 9th respectively in the driver’s championship, but for that to happen the team need to step things up a notch pretty quickly – and they seem to believe they can bring significant upgrades to Barcelona in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.

They certainly need to – no points from the first four races – and with Button not even starting last time out due to car issues in Bahrain – has been one of the worst starts to a season McLaren have ever had – hardly befitting of a team known for competing at the front of the field most of the time.

There’s been talk of what Alonso must be thinking, watching his old team Ferrari looking pretty sharp so far. Of course, every decision is easier with hindsight, and Alonso isn’t about to publicly say he made a mistake. What he is saying is that the team is motivated to do everything they can to get back to the top, and of that I am sure.

Hamilton Impervious to Pressure?

In Bahrain Hamilton was under little threat once again from the people behind him – he kept Rosberg at bay pretty comfortably through the race, despite much being made of a more aggressive Rosberg, prepared to be a bit punchier when dueling with Vettel. It’s now four races out of four where Hamilton has kept his teammate at arm’s length, never really looking troubled, and Rosberg needs to start turning the tables pretty soon. He is already more than a race win’s-worth of points behind Hamilton, who must be delighted with the way the season has gone so far (Malaysia notwithstanding, where things didn’t quite pan out the way he – or his team – would have liked).

LewisHamilton(Hamilton has been pretty relaxed so far this season)

It seems to me that Lewis Hamilton is the only person capable of unhinging his own chances this year. He has been driving like a champion, and unless he makes a serious error that lets Rosberg back into the fight, he is only going to get further ahead.

Back to F1 News

SuperMarioKartTime for a bit of shameless nostalgia. Back in 1992 (that feels like a long time ago!) Nintendo released Super Mario Kart for the SNES, and a life-long love affair was born.

By today’s standards Super Mario Kart is hardly amazing in terms of graphics or sound, but the true mark of any game is replay value, and to me, SMK still has this in spades!

The first entry to the Mario Kart series introduced several staples to the series that remain to this day, such as turtle shells and other items designed to boost your race or impede someone else’s race. It was a lot of fun making my way around the various circuits, hurling heat-seeking red shells at racers ahead of me, or getting a jump feather at just the right time to hurl myself over an obstacle. The track design was clever and varied, with ghost houses, muddy chocolate tracks and lava-pocked fortresses. With various levels of difficulty (both in terms of available cups to compete for and the aggression of the AI) I can honestly say the original Super Mario Kart is still one of the best entries in the series, and one of the finest games ever made full stop.

SMK1(Being able to have a map up on the screen was extremely useful!)

Another great thing about Mario Kart is that it’s two-player. No, it isn’t something you can play over wifi or anything so elaborate, but the two-player aspect of the game led to some great fun with my friends, as we fought hard to win championships. We enjoyed fighting it out, race after race, the margins between us often quite fine.

smk2(Two players could play at once)

SMK also had a ‘battle mode’, where two players could go head to head in arenas, battling to pop the other player’s balloons. Finally, there was a time trial mode, which is literally as it sounds.

After so many new incarnations of Mario Kart, the original is still one of the best ones. It offered challenge, it offered fun, and it still offers replay value, even after so many years!

9/10

Back to Reviews

image

With my appreciation of the Honor Harrington series well known to my wife, a couple of years ago she asked a guy in the local bookshop about other, similar stories. He introduced her to The Lost Fleet series, and she in turn introduced it to me.

I’ve got to say, I’ve been hooked since the first book, Dauntless!

Written by John G Hemry (under the pen name Jack Campbell), Dauntless puts us in the boots of ‘Black Jack’ John Geary, Alliance captain, and to some, saviour. He’s been absent for nearly a hundred years, frozen in stasis and with stories of his heroism growing to near-Biblical levels, and when he’s found by a beleaguered Alliance fleet, Geary is thrust into command.

I couldn’t help but warm to Geary. He’s a man out of time, having to somehow lead his fleet home whilst deep behind enemy lines, whilst teaching the fleet a thing or two about how his generation practiced warfare. He’s idolised by some, feared by others, and has to juggle so many different balls at once. I’m sure we’ve all felt like we have several competing priorities and even if you’re not in the military, if you’re in a position of responsibility you’ll empathise with Geary.

The battle scenes are well constructed and allow for both a tense buildup and a sense of directed chaos once the fighting starts. The heart of the story though, is Geary’s personal journey. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders, in more ways than one, and as soon as I finished the final page, I wanted to pick up the next book!

10/10

Back to Reviews

Another thing I’ve been up to with my site is looking at other themes. WordPress has a considerable range to choose from, and earlier today I was playing around with said themes. After all, a redesign never hurts!

So far though, nothing has leapt out at me as being straightforward enough to change it too. Still, I may yet find something I like!

OnBasiliskStationOne of the things that I love is books. I have always enjoyed reading, and as a kid I would read Roald Dahl books over and over again. It was his vivid and often macabre imagination that fired my own, and his books were just a joy to read!

As an adult my tastes lean more toward science fiction, and I dare say I’ve read a lot of science fiction! I was introduced to the Honor Harrington series by a guy that worked in my local bookshop, and whilst I have a few reservations about his later work, David Weber’s earlier entries to the Honorverse are superb examples of not only good science fiction, but good storytelling and good characters.

The first entry is On Basilisk Station, first published all the back in 1993, and whilst some stories suffer from having to explain a lot of back story, Weber manages to maintain a sense of pace to this story whilst giving us insights into the characters that aren’t full of exposition. Honor is presented not as a flawless Mary Sue-type character, but rather, as a woman of strong will who nevertheless holds on to insecurity that stems from her academy days, thanks to events that haunt her, even as she begins her first command. She doesn’t let these issues stop her though, despite being undermined by certain superior officers who feel embarrassed by how she shows them up during training exercises, and despite facing a devious external plot with the resources of only one ship.

One of the things that sets this book apart from its peers is that the characters and setting have a ‘lived in’ feel. This is not some pseudo-plastic, shiny universe where everything gleams and is perfect. The characters are human beings, flawed people, subject to the same fears and frailties as the rest of us, and ships and equipment get dirty, break down and need fixing. Politicians still argue and lie, and people can still reach high ranks within a military because of their family name, rather than talent. This all helps the reader to relate to the characters, and the nice attention to detail by Weber sucks you into this world and helps you care about the characters.

It all builds up to a tense finale that actually had me sweating with anticipation and concern about the fate of various characters. The battle scenes are reminiscent of 19th Century naval duels, except fought over much greater distances! If you like naval combat scenes that are realistic, good, consistent portrayals of technology, political intrigue and most of all, relate-able characters, On Basilisk Station is a fantastic start to a good series!

10/10

Back to Reviews

Recently I kick-started an idea to do with busting jargon. On reflection (as I am trying to do this on a semi-professional basis), I have decided I am not playing to my strengths. Yes, I feel I can offer some insights into how retail works – and I might well continue to do so, but instead it might be better to focus my efforts on something I know more about – so it’s time to offer my thoughts on various books, games and films/TV shows I’ve enjoyed (or not enjoyed!). I hope you are entertained!

So I’m walking with my wife and daughter as we head home from her school, when we hear a woman shouting for help from down the path. Turns out the poor dear tripped and cut her arm and bashed her hip! My wife and I, and a neighbour, helped get her home (along with her two dogs!). I hope the poor dear is ok!